RALEIGH — At first glance, it looked as though state Sen. Austin Allran brought a cute toy fish to the Senate on Thursday.
Then Allran showed his colleagues how the fish, which resembled "Nemo" of Disney fame, belches fire.
The fish was a cigarette lighter.
Allran, a Hickory Republican, brought the fish and a box full of other novelty cigarette lighters to persuade the Senate that North Carolina needs to prohibit the sale of such devices.
"They're very entertaining, but they're also very dangerous," Allran said.
Allran displayed lighters that looked like a deck of cards, an astronaut, a fishing rod, a cell phone, miniature hot dogs and a miniature shotgun. The lighters are typically made in China and do not comply with child safety standards. On many of the lighters, the trigger and the hole where the flame would emerge were not immediately obvious.
On the fish, pressing the back fin sends a flame out of its mouth.
In 2006, a North Carolina child suffered second-degree burns while playing with a lighter that looked like a cell phone, Allran said.
Sen. David Hoyle, a Gastonia Democrat, said the bill would leave convenience stores stuck with boxes of lighters they could no longer sell. Ultimately, he said, parents need to be responsible for keeping lighters away from children.
"Somewhere along the way, somebody's got to take some personal responsibility," Hoyle said.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, said the lighters have no benefit.
"You push something and the little fire will come out of the most amazing place that you can imagine," Rand said. "The consequences are it's very attractive to children."
Under the bill, selling the lighters would result in a $500 fine and civil penalties from the attorney general.
The bill easily passed the Senate and now moves to the House.
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